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Consultant – Tax & legal
Tiana Podinic studied Bachelor of Business and Commerce (Advanced Business Leadership) / Bachelor of Laws at Western Sydney University.
What's your name and job title? What did you study? When did you graduate?
My name is Tiana Podinic and I'm a consultant (tax & legal) at PwC. I studied a Bachelor of Business and Commerce (Advanced Business Leadership) / Bachelor of Laws at Western Sydney University and graduated in 2017.
Where did you grow up? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Sydney and went to uni at Western Sydney University. After five long years of study, I was lucky enough to study abroad twice in the Netherlands and Argentina, represent my university at leadership symposiums in Hong Kong and South Korea, and delved into everything and anything that struck my fancy. From interning at a legal start up to tutoring rugby league professionals, I really took advantage of every opportunity that came my way. I wanted to be able to make a more informed decision about the type of work I wanted to do and what workplace would be a good match for me, so I tried everything out.
How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?
During my second last year, I interned with PwC through their Vacation Program. I joined the Tax and Legal teams for six weeks. It was a great experience and I loved all the challenges, the work, the people and culture. After finishing this up, I was offered a graduate position to start in February 2018.
Applying for our job
How did you choose your specialisation? Were you weighing up any other alternatives before choosing this specialisation?
I was always certain I wanted to practice in a commercial setting. I also knew that I had a passion in understanding how economic policy interacts with the law. I love keeping up to date with the changing business market and globalisation.
I applied for the Tax stream at PwC because I had spoken to previous graduates who mentioned that contrary to the stereotype of tax law, it’s very challenging and very often other commercial and banking lawyers seek initial advice from tax lawyers in relation to their corporate clients. While I was an intern, I quickly learnt this was true.
I wanted to practice in an area of law where I felt like I was contributing to the development of that sector. Since tax law is always changing due to economic and political factors, there is great opportunity in contributing to the wider conversation on tax reform, compared to more established areas of law where changes may be very niche.
What was your interview process like?
I found the interview process rather refreshing compared to others. PwC encouraged applicants to interview the firm as much as the firm was interviewing them.
At the assessment centre day, PwC’s Canvas Career Jam, we had quite a few PwC staff from all grades there on the day ready for their questioning as well. I really appreciated this day as there were a lot of honest answers, which ultimately showed me the integrity that is so inherent in the culture.
The interview itself didn’t feel much like an interview - we ordered coffee and had a chat. There was a strong focus on my personality, and not just marks and achievements.
Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? Should they pursue any sort of work experience?
In tax law, a background in accounting will help, although it isn’t necessary. I only studied two tax law subjects at university and this was fine in terms of my ability to pick up on concepts at work. Unlike many other areas of law, tax law is hard to master as it’s always changing at a rapid pace.
I recommend keeping up to date with what’s happening around the world in terms of tax regimes and scandals as this is an easy way to see how the work you may be doing could impact your clients and national policy.
What does your employer do?
PwC is a multidisciplinary professional services firm with a global purpose of “building trust in society and solving important problems”. PwC’s purpose is the best way of explaining the work it does – from creating drones which increase efficiency of the agricultural sector to helping redesign the health industry. There are a range of teams that the 7,000+ employees in Australia make up. PwC takes people from all degree backgrounds, irrespective of whether their formal education is related nor not.
What are your areas of responsibility?
As a graduate I have already been given my own clients to work on and track the progress of their matters. I am also responsible for touching base with various partners from different teams to understand what the workflow is like regarding a client.
I am also responsible for conducting any research tasks on complex areas of law, along with drafting advice to clients, calling the ATO, tracking emerging trends that may affect our clients and arrange workflow meetings.
Can you describe a typical work day?
A typical work day will definitely involve some sort of meeting to be briefed on a matter. This will probably involve a complex area of tax law to further research and apply to our client’s matter. I will often collaborate with other legal and non-legal specialists in finding the answer. I might have to draft the advice in a memo or an email and send this for review. Alternatively, I will arrange for a meeting with the entire team working on the matter to discuss findings.
I will also make sure I have read the latest developments in tax to identify whether any of the changes affect the clients I have been assigned so I can flag this with others in the team.
On other days I may have a training session lead by one of the partners for the entire Tax team to brief us on the latest developments in the sector.
What sort of person succeeds in your career?
In tax law, there are lots of abstract concepts and the legislation can be quite convoluted at times. This means that analytical and logical deduction is essential.
Problems in tax also involve drawing upon not only cases and legislation, but on explanatory memoranda, policy objectives, ATO commentary among other resources to find the most appropriate answer in a scenario where an answer does not exist. As a result, persistence is key.
Lastly, tax law is heavily intertwined with the broader business world and underpins many economic decisions as well. A commercial understanding is definitely very helpful in understanding and adequately delivering to the clients’ broader needs.
What are the career prospects with your job?
Career prospects in tax are quite varied. There are opportunities to work at the ATO, in house tax divisions at large corporations, law firms and at professional services firms as well. Since tax law delves into other areas of law such as corporations law, banking and finance law, along with law concerning property and trusts, there is also opportunities for tax lawyers to move into these areas of law as well.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Definitely! PwC hires people from all different backgrounds and you don’t need to have a business or law background. Technical training is done on the job, and in this way PwC doesn’t expect you to have any previous knowledge of tax law. In fact, the training was one of my favourite things starting out! All graduates across Australia were flown to Melbourne for two weeks to go through this learning process together.
The firm wants to celebrate what makes you different. Seeing this diversity in action, I can definitely say that this contributes to the way in which we help clients to successfully deliver a meaningful strategy instead of a simple answer to their problem. The firm is multidisciplinary, so this collaboration comes naturally to the culture.
Pros and cons
What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
I love that my job is challenging. A lot of the time you are dealing with a matter that has no legal precedent and this means that you have to draw on your creativity in researching to determine what would be the answer based on other material such as public policy, legislative objectives, rulings and commentary.
I also love that I work for an innovative and modern firm. With no dress code, I can dress casually for the day and with no offices, I can sit wherever I like to suit my workload or get to know certain people better by sitting next to them.
PwC have lawyers but also other specialists who collaborate and help find clients a commercially viable solution with a broader business outlook rather than just their legal matter at hand. As a graduate, I find it incredibly rewarding that I develop my commerciality not only through lawyers, but also of through other specialists who have a world of market insight.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Are the stress levels high?
From the very beginning there is a lot of independence and trust in how you manage your day. I soon learnt about how much work I can take on and where to draw the line, while also having opportunities to seek out work I am passionate about and learn to juggle these priorities. It is a struggle sometimes, but ultimately this is a necessary prerequisite for growth which I would rather learn earlier than later.
Naturally, there will sometimes be long hours. The flipside of this is the flexible working arrangements which make this manageable and help you keep work life balance. You’re able to work from home or any other location, take time off during the day if you need that relaxing massage and leave work earlier to attend your sport training that night. It’s all about balance.
A word to the wise...
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student? They don’t necessarily have to be related to your role, or even be career-focused.
- Never underestimate your curiosity. You will never know until you’ve done it – so try and do as much as you can! This includes things that you are drawn to and things you don’t think you’ll enjoy as much. There is great benefit in knowing what you do like and what you don’t like.
- Don’t be afraid to ask those around you for guidance, support and advice. There is a world of wisdom people have to offer that they have learnt through their own unique experiences.
- Most importantly, everything is about perspective! University is a long rollercoaster and there will inevitably be times where you come down, but remember that there is something to gain from every experience.